Stocks inched mostly higher on Wednesday, enough to nudge the Nasdaq composite index to an all-time high. Markets continue to remain quiet ahead of Friday’s jobs report and the Labor Day holiday in the United States on Monday.
The S&P 500 index rose 1.41 points, less than 0.1 percent, to close at 4,524.09. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 48.20 points, or 0.1 percent, to 35,312.53 and the Nasdaq climbed 50.15 points, or 0.3 percent, to 15,309.38.
Small-company stocks did better than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index rose 0.6 percent.
Technology and communications stocks made solid gains that helped lift an otherwise choppy market. Consumer staples also rose more than other sectors.
Investors had a weak survey to work through from payroll processor ADP, which showed U.S. companies added jobs at a much slower pace in August than economists had anticipated. The weak report follows a disappointing consumer confidence survey Tuesday and comes ahead of the Labor Department’s release of its August jobs report on Friday.
“Friday’s (jobs) numbers are going to be very carefully looked at on all levels,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments.
Economists expect that U.S. employers created 750,000 jobs in August, according to FactSet, pushing the unemployment rate down to 5.2 percent.
The report should provide more clues about the strength of the job market and might give investors a clearer sense of whether the Federal Reserve will decide at its upcoming September meeting on a timeline for paring back the $120 billion in bond purchases it’s making each month. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has signaled that the central bank will continue to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future, even when it tapers the bond buying.
Trading is likely to pick up next week, once Wall Street is through the Labor Day holiday. September is historically a more volatile month for the stock market.
Meanwhile, The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, reported that growth in U.S. manufacturing accelerated in August despite the fact that companies were still struggling with supply chain problems. The supply chain issues, along with improvements in employment, are key factors in how investors are gauging the direction and potential impact of inflation, Martin said.
The broader market has been pushing higher all year, with the S&P 500 closing out August with its seventh straight monthly gain, marking its longest such winning streak since early 2018. Much of the momentum has been sustained by low interest rates favoring stock investments and a steady economic recovery, but investors are growing more cautious.
COVID-19’s more contagious Delta variant has raised concerns that consumers could pull back on spending and a much needed recovery in the jobs market could stall.
The focus on broader economic data comes as the market quiets down following a solid corporate earnings season.
Copper prices slipped 2.2 percent and pushed some key copper mining companies lower.
PVH, which owns the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, jumped 15.1 percent after raising its profit forecast for the year. Other stocks making big gains include video-compression chipmaker Ambarella, which gained 27.4 percent after reporting solid second-quarter financial results.
Bond yields were stable. The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained at 1.30 percent from late Tuesday.
Markets in Europe and Asia closed mostly higher.
By Damian J. Troise